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fall of the roman empire and of course the decoration of independent set of books, articles, the first major steam engine came out in 1776. david hune who is kind of the father of, the philosopher of the enlightenment died in 1776. george washington crossing the delaware. it's not just george washington in mccullough's point of view in 1776. so i'm working on that as well as a few other projects, but i love writing books and i love teaching. and i love doing freedomfest. is a great way to meet all the authors and see what's happening in the world. >> we have been talking with author mark skousen and great -- founder of freedomfest where booktv is on location, the making of modern economics, his
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book, thank you for being on booktv. >> thank you. in an interview conducted on the campus of george mason university in virginia during the fall for the book festival we talked to reyna grande about their memoir, "the distance between us." in the book she shares her experience of going up in mexico without her parents who immigrated to the united states illegally to find work. this is about half an hour. >> reyna grande what is -- >> the way i grew up knowing it was a reference to the united states but to me because i grew up in this hometown surrounded by mountains and i didn't know where the united states was, to me it was the other side of the mountain. and during that time when my parents were gone working here in the u.s., i would look at the mountains and think that my
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parents were over there on the other side of the mountains. >> where did you grow up and originally where were you born? >> i was born in mexico in southern mexico and the little city that no one has heard of. when i mention acapulco everyone knows i'll could poke so it was a few hours away from acapulco. >> windage of parents come to the united states? >> my father came here in 1977 when i was three years old and he sent for my mother a few years later so my mother came in 1980 when i was four and a half years old. >> when did you come to the united states? >> i came to united states in 1985. >> how old were you? >> in may of 1985, i was nine and a half going on 10. >> what you tell us about coming to the united states? what was your track? >> well i have been separated from my father for eight years so when he returned to mexico
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and 85, my sisters and i convinced him to bring us back here because he was not going to come back to mexico and we didn't want to spend anymore time separated from him. so we begged him to bring us here and my father didn't really want to bring me because i was nine and a half and he thought i wouldn't be able to make it across the border. we had to run across illegally, so i begged him to bring me here and we took the bus from mexico city to tijuana. >> right on the border of. >> right on the border of tijuana and it was a very long today bus ride because i had rarely been in any kind of car or public transportation and i got car sick many times along the way. but when we got to the border my father hired a smuggler to bring us across. >> what do you remember about that experience? >> what i remember is how much
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walking there was and i remember having a lot of guilt because my father was right. i was too little to be making that kind of crossing and i would get tired of them complain about the walking and the fact that i was thirsty or hungry and tired. my father ended up carrying me a lot of times on his back and we got caught several times by border patrol. i just felt this immense guilt because i thought it was my fault that we had gotten caught. >> what happens when you get caught, reyna grande? >> when we got caught we got loaded into a van with everyone else that got caught and then we were taken to the border patrol offices. i don't remember a whole lot because we were children. we were really like -- by border patrol. they would take my father into an office and talk to him and i
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remember waiting for him in the hallway and the border patrol people were very nice to us. i remember they offered to get us a soda, so they brought us so a soda said we were drinking the sodas waiting for our dad. so it was a mixed feeling where we were being treated very kindly by the border patrol but at the same time knowing that they were keeping us from crossing and from being able to have a chance at having our father back in our lives. >> reyna grande, the third time? >> the third time we cross the border was very scary because my father decided to try it in the dead of night hoping that the darkness with attacked us and help us to cross. and he was right. we couldn't even see where we were going and a lot of times who were tripping on rocks and stumbling. and then when i remembered most about the border crossing was
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the helicopter. there was a helicopter they came by, and we were just running for our lives trying to find a place to hide. we crawled under some bushes and i remember the theme beam of the light fell on my shoe and i was praying so hard that the people out there hadn't seen me. luckily they didn't, so we made it across. >> where did you spend that first night? >> while the first night, by the time we made it across the border it was don, and we walked to the second house. he was responsible for driving us to l.a.. he made us lie down in the backseat and he wouldn't let us set up because he was afraid maybe get pulled over by border patrol. i spent the whole car ride basically lying down. it wasn't until we got to santa
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ana when he said okay you can get up now. and so, just seeing all of those things outside of the window was so amazing. i remember all the palm trees and in my hometown we didn't have palm trees. the streets that seem to never and in the buildings that seemed to reach the sky. it was just amazing. it was really amazing. >> where did you live in l.a.? >> when i first got to l.a. i lived in northeast los angeles. it was predominantly a latino community. >> mostly illegal? >> i think it was a combination. there were a lot of immigrant families, but you know there were also legal and illegal family's. >> how did illegals view the illegals? >> i am not so sure about that because as a child, i don't
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think i was too aware of that kind of response from the adults. but what i do remember the most is being shy when i got to school. most of the kids in my classroom or dark-skinned and they look just like me and they had lost names like rcn gonzalez and hernandez and they could speak a language that i could not speak. that was really shocking to me because they looked exactly like me and yet they weren't. i would say that was probably the first time i was really aware of of the fact that there were a latino's, but they were different from me. >> you were in the esl classes, english as a second language classes? >> yes. >> was that a second class citizen type thing?
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>> yeah, definitely. being an esl student, that is who you are and that is the way people treat you, like an outsider. definitely there's a sense of separation because the kids who speak english, they hang out in their own circle and then the esl kids what hang out near the classroom, near the esl classroom. i do remember wanting to fit in but not being able to because i was an esl student but i worked very hard at trying to finish my esl classes and get out of that program. by the time i was in eighth grade i was in bold and regular eighth-grade english. >> reyna grande, there is a picture we are going to show one here are a few with a saxophone. tell us about that. >> the saxophone was something i discovered when i was at burbank junior high school in seventh grade.
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my counselor enrolled me in band it was an elective, but i was so lucky to have been put in that class because when i walked in there and the teacher said what and g-men t. want to play? at first i thought i had to pay for them and i said how much does it cost? when he said it doesn't cost you anything, it just seemed like the whole world opened up to me. and i got to choose whichever instrument i wanted and i saw the saxophone. it was so beautiful and that was the one i wanted. >> do you still play today? >> i don't play anymore and i haven't played since i graduated from city college because i'm i never on plan on sax. when i went to study that didn't have a marching band so i didn't have anything to join. then i discovered a whole bunch
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of other things. i got into dance and film and video. i got into all these other things that i was doing and i really miss to the saxophone and i wanted to get back into playing. one of my teachers pulled me aside one day and she said you know you are very creative and you love to explore and learn new things but you need to choose one thing that you want to focus on because otherwise you're going to be a jack of all trades. i went home that day and i thought, what is it that i cannot live without? and that is when i decided that writing was the one thing i couldn't live without. i gave up everything else and i focused on my writing. >> you are novelist, an award-winning novelist and one an american book award in 2007, dancing with butterflies and you wanted international latino book award in 2010 and this is your
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first nonfiction, this memoir. it's a very personal memoir. >> it's extremely personal. that is the only way i know how to write and even with my fiction, even though it is fiction, but it's also inspired by personal experiences. with a memoir, there were many times when i was afraid to go there because it was extremely personal and i wasn't just writing about myself. i was writing about my family and about my parents and they run many times when i felt that i was writing things that i shouldn't. but then i felt that if i was going to write a memoir, i needed to be completely honest with the story and to turn my pain and my fear into my
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strength instead of them being my weakness is. >> reyna grande did you write this book originally in english or in spanish? >> i always write in english first. unfortunately when i came to this country i got so obsessed with learning english that i neglected my native tongue. for many years, all i did was be and -- eat in brief anguish to the point when i got to college i was tutoring native english speakers and teaching them how to write better english. but when i was in college i got into spanish for spanish speakers and that is why to those classes and i said i'm going to reclaim my native tongue. but. i read in english because it seems natural to me and i don't have to think about the language when writing but the
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first one i tried to write in spanish i had to think of the dictionary every single minute. that completely pulls me out of the story because i have to think about the vocabulary. i read everything in english and then i do my own translation. so i translate across 100 mountains myself and that will be published in spanish next year and i did the translation also. >> do your novels sell well in the spanish-language? >> my novels don't sell as well in spanish as they do in english and i think multiples are published here in spanish and the spanish books don't have the same type of -- and i think part of that is because you know, people can't afford to buy a book and they don't have access to the book,
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especially in low income communities. there are no books stores anywhere and i think it's hard for them to get access to the book. >> we are talking was reyna grande whose memoir is called "the distance between us" a memoir, published by sean -- simon & schuster. reyna grande tell us your life story. >> my life story? you mean the kerosene story? >> when you went to school and they did a sanitation check on you. >> oh, okay. yeah, when i came to -- in fifth grade one day than there showed up and the teacher said she is coming to inspect all the kids for lice. i was so shocked because i couldn't understand that happened in mexico because all of his head lice. we were all poor kids coming to
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school barefoot and dirty and we all head lice but in l.a. i didn't expect there to be lice and for a second there i thought maybe they cross the border illegally like i had. i got inspected and it turned out that i had lice. i was so afraid to go home and tell that to my dad because i didn't want him to think that i was still that dirty little girl he had left mine in mexico. i thought he was going to beat me as well because that was his favorite way of disciplining us. it turned out that my father was not angry at me and he didn't blame me and he did not be me and it was just a very beautiful moment because he took me out to the yard and he looks for lice and he cleaned out my hair and he spent two hours, looking
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through my hair, looking for lice and he was so gentle when he did it. it was just a beautiful moment for me. then he was telling me stories about when i was a baby and of course i didn't remember. it was before he came to the u.s. and before he left me in mexico. he told me every time he would come home for lunch during his break, i would be waiting outside with a bowl and i would tell him to give me a bath. i wouldn't let anybody pays me except for him so great day he would, and basically spent his whole lunch hour giving me a bath instead of the eating. he said i wouldn't have it any other way. when he told me that, i don't know, i thought he was such a beautiful moment that i got to share with him. >> reyna grande that is one of the few in your book that is tender and beautiful about your
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father. >> yes, yes. my father was a very complicated man. he was suffering from alcoholism and he was suffering from a bad upbringing. his parents were very abusive towards him and unfortunately he repeated the same cycle with us. but as i was writing a memoir, even though i was writing about those very hard, painful moments that i spent with him and suffering from a lot of abuse, i also got a chance to revisit all the happy memories and one of the things that i -- is my father taught me to value education. he was such a tirade about it and he often threatened to send me back to mexico if i didn't do well in school. >> with the is a scary threat? >> that was a scary threat
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because i believed him. i didn't want to go back to mexico and i wanted to make him proud. another thing i felt, i felt that i owed him that. i never wanted my father to say i shouldn't have brought you and it was bad but really like always was motivating me to do well in school and to do all these great things that he wanted me to do. i didn't want to hear that ever from my dad. he never said that he didn't but my dad, and i was writing the book i really wanted to make sure that he didn't come across as the villain in the story. i really wanted to give him his humanity. he has had some really great things. he was dealing with a lot of
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difficulties that affected our relationship. >> you tell a story here about how you wanted to go to church one sunday and he held up a budweiser and he said, this is my god. >> yes, yes. >> when nature of father passed? >> he passed away last year and he died from liver cancer. he got cirrhosis back in 93 and it never told us and he kept drinking. he actually gave up drinking in the late '90s. he gave up drinking and he became very religious. he was a seventh-day adventist. but he never got himself checked. a year and a half ago they told him he had liver cancer. he really held onto the hope that he would get better and that he would get a transplant at some point. >> did his sobering up change her relationship?
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>> not too much, because by the time he sobered up, things have gotten way too bad. and even though he had sobered up, he was still very distant. and he traded one of session for another. he went from being an alcoholic assessed with alcohol to being this religious fanatic, and i remember a lot of times i would invite him over to our family gatherings and he wouldn't become the -- he wouldn't come because he had to be a church. he always had to be a church and we always felt like, we lose either way. he could be an alcoholic or he could be religious and we are going to lose anyway because he will never make us his priority. i remember when i got married, he was going to walk me down the aisle and he was looking at the clock saying, what time is the
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sweating going to start? i have to go to my church. hurry up. and i just felt so hurt because it was like i only get married once here, you know? your church is always going to be there but he kept looking at the clock and then we were done with the ceremony. he took off right after that. he stayed for the reception for a little bit, but i felt so horrible the whole time, thinking that, i am never going to be more important to my father then other things. and it really hurt me a lot. >> where does your mother figure into the story? >> i see hardly talk about my mother. anybody who reads a memoir will know why, but my mother, she is still alive. she is still in l.a.. she lives about 20 minutes away from me. it has been actually, now that i have become a writer and i have
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to travel a lot, i have to say that has in the way helped me to have a better relationship with her. like right now that i'm here, she is with my children and she comes over and she takes care of them. so she really tries to help me out whenever she can. and then also, it has really helped me to understand her more, having my own children because i can understand now what it's like to be torn between being a mother and being a woman with her own dreams and aspirations. every time i have to leave my house and my daughter, asks me how long i'm going to be done. remember my mother when i would ask her how long she was going to be gone, and i really do understand how hard it is to
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want to do right by your kids and the same time want to go out into the world to persevere pursue your own dreams. so i have a better relationship now with my mother, but definitely there is an emotional distance and i think there will always be an emotional distance. >> sometimes your mother would be gone for years. >> yes. >> she came to the u.s. and you didn't even know what? >> right, and you know my mother has not changed a whole lot. she is still like that in a way, you know, where we don't fit into the equation sometimes. and it's been a struggle to try to get her to be a little more motherly. but, i think at this point we have come to accept that the is the way she is and we just take her as she is and i think we are
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not disappointed. but i do hope that she will be a better grandmother and i know people change. i know my good grandmother, my mother said she was not such a great mother to her but she was the most wonderful grandmother in the world. so i'm hoping that is the way my children feel for her as well as a grandmother and that is all i want for my kids to have a good relationship with her. >> reyna grande is your mother been able to read this book and do she know what's in it? >> she hasn't been able to read the book because it's in english and my mother does not speaking wish. she knows somewhat what's in it because i told her, this is a story about my childhood and my growing up and i read about you and i write about my dad but i
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don't think my mother really understands how i saw her as the daughter and how her actions determined my childhood you know and how my childhood was really defined by her absence. i don't think she understands that. so i am curious to see what she is going to say when the spanish version comes out. >> "the distance between us," has anyone compared this? when i read it i thought about angela bashur's book. >> that is what he compared it to in his review and i was just like beyond honored to be even in the same sentence with angela
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because that is such a wonderful book and it's one of my favorite books and for someone to say that my book is like the mexican immigrant experience i was truly thrilled. there are similarities. we both talk about, that our relationships with their parents, struggling to overcome all the obstacles and being able to go above and beyond what we thought we ever could. there are many similarities although i think you know, one of the best things about angela is that there is so much humor that balances all the stuff that she writes about and i'm i am not very humorous unfortunately.
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i would love to write more humor in my work, but i write from a very deep place of that has mostly pain and sadness, and that is where my writing comes from. i was thinking you know, i was thinking about -- because she is one of my idols and i was thinking how similar we are and not way. she also writes from a place of pain and that is the way i write. when i'm happy i cannot right. and sometimes i tell my husband, you will have to make me miserable because i cannot right. i'm too happy here. so sometimes it is very hard to write when i feel good. >> reyna grande do you think your experience coming across the border and growing up the way you did as an illegal
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immigrant, is it a common experience do you think? >> it's definitely very common. my experience, being separated from my parents and then being brought here to the u.s. as a child by my parents, it's very common. when i was researching this topic, i learned that 80% and of the latin american children in u.s. schools get separated from the parent in the process of migration so that as a is a whole lot of kids that are being separated from parents who are coming here as undocumented child emigrants. so definitely my experience is not unique but there is not a whole lot of awareness or when people talk about immigration, very seldom do they cons
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